I’ve been sober from alcohol for five years. Before I quit, I was getting sicker and more miserable by the day. I had no idea what “feeling good” was like, and my emotions and physical health were so scattered I couldn’t see straight. I no longer miss alcohol or think about it much. This was not an easy place to get to. After I quit drinking, I spent the first year and a half constantly dealing with cravings.
The chemical-based cravings subsided reasonably quickly, but the psychological ones took much longer. I hear people talk about feeling addicted to a relationship with a person and how horrible it was to "quit" them. I’m surprised by how similar this felt to my relationship with alcohol. I was not only chemically addicted but I was also addicted to the habit of drinking as well.
I thought alcohol was my friend and confidant. It’s the first thing I would go to when I had a bad day or couldn’t cope. And honestly, for years, it did help me get through some tough moments. But it came at a high price.
Alcohol will erode your life, your body, and your spirit. It can be insidious, and you often don’t even know the erosion is happening until it’s too late. At the peak of my drinking, I didn’t realize that my anxiety, bad moods, impatience, heartburn, inflammation, lack of focus and sleeping issues were due to alcohol. Many other things can cause those symptoms, so it’s hard to know for sure. All I know is that when I quit, all those symptoms went away.
I was somewhat shocked to admit that I’d been making myself sick but so grateful that my health eventually returned.
But of all the health and life assets that sobriety gave back to me, there’s one that’s been the most important. I never even knew it was missing from my life because it’d been missing for so long that I forgot about it.
For the longest time, I hated mornings. Not just because I felt horrible most mornings after drinking, but because the morning was when the energy of trauma was most potent in my body.
By the time I hit my adult years, I had already developed a heavy drinking habit. I had also developed mental health issues. I thought I was self-medicating because of the depression, but really, the depression and drinking were due to the effects of trauma. It’s hard to know where things begin when it comes to drinking, depression and trauma. All I know is that for me, all three combined to create a trifecta of suffering.
I first had to stop drinking, then I could treat the trauma. I wouldn’t have been able to dig into my trauma if I hadn’t quit drinking.
To treat trauma, you have to be able to feel it, and you can’t feel it if you drink heavily. That may seem like grim news for those struggling to get sober, but I think everything happens in due time.
Many addicts use substances so they can sustain the pain from their trauma. Not everyone is ready to feel yet, and that’s perfectly fine. When I got sober, it’s because I was ready to explore my feelings, and I was prepared to do the work.
Those who aren’t ready to feel shouldn’t be shamed into doing so. Just because others are ready to feel doesn’t mean they’re better or stronger. I don’t know why I was ready; these are things you can’t predict, rush or anticipate. But I’m so grateful I was able to get sober and move through trauma treatment. It meant I was finally able to wake up every day and enjoy the quiet and peace of those early hours.
The morning has become such a beautiful gem to me that still, after five years, I wake up and whisper “thank you” to the universe. I’m so grateful for every morning that arrives without the shakes, the sorrow and impending doom.
Mornings used to be something I had to endure, to get through. Now mornings are my favorite time of the day. I feel like anything is possible and that I have a fresh start. Even on days when the weather is terrible and I’m stressed about things, I still feel such gratitude.
Mornings are a time when I can reconnect to myself, savor my coffee and plan my day. All of the creativity that I pour into my work begins in the morning, by doing nothing but being in the moment. Those precious few hours are when I turn, water and fertilize the soil of my creative endeavors. Without that process, there is no creation.
Many of us in recovery from addiction have a few things we value most about getting sober. Often these things help us stay sober. For me, it’s my mornings; I can’t imagine life without them now.
If you’re in recovery, it helps to find things that have been renewed or gifted to you through sobriety. Maybe you’re able to get a proper night’s sleep, or you’ve found your way back to a cherished hobby, or perhaps you can finally sustain an intimate relationship.
Getting sober is hard, but it will reveal a path back to your hidden gems once you get through it.
Once you find those gems, cherish them. They’re the gifts that come once you rise from the ashes of addiction.